Israel confirms strike in Syria

In rare acknowledgement, Israel confirms strike on Iran weapons caches in Syria

Netanyahu: IAF hit ‘Iranian depots full of Iranian weapons’ at Damascus Airport; Assad regime accuses US of helping Israel ‘get away’ with attacks

A blast caused by an Israeli airstrike on Iranian targets in the Damascus International Airport on January 11, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

In a rare acknowledgement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday confirmed that Israel conducted an airstrike against Iranian targets in Syria over the weekend, which he said destroyed a number of weapons caches in the Damascus airport.

“The Israel Defense Forces has attacked hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Just in the past 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian depots full of Iranian weapons in the Damascus International Airport,” Netanyahu said, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office, in a rare acknowledgement of such a raid.

“These last attacks underline that we are more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria, precisely as we have promised,” Netanyahu added.

The prime minister appeared to be referring to an attack on the airport on Friday night in which the Syrian military said that “Israeli warplanes coming from the direction of the Galilee fired several missiles toward the vicinity of Damascus.”

Israel typically refrains from commenting on individual airstrikes in Syria, but does generally acknowledge that it carries out raids against Iranian- and Hezbollah-linked targets in the country.

During the meeting Sunday, the cabinet bade farewell to outgoing IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

The prime minister praised the general for blocking Iran’s attempts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

“We have operated — to impressive success — to block Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria,” Netanyahu said.

“We acted against the manufacturing of precision weapons in Lebanon, we acted to destroy Hezbollah’s tunnel weapons in Lebanon with Operation Northern Shield, we acted against Hamas’s tunnels on the Gaza border, we have prevented hundreds of lone-wolf terror acts in Judea and Samaria, and we have carried out many more operations, both openly and hidden from view,” the prime minister said.

The official news agency SANA reported that Syrian air defense batteries opened fire on “hostile Israel missiles” and intercepted “most” of them, a common claim of the Syrian military, which many defense analysts believe to be false or overstated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said that “two areas hosting military positions of Iranian forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement have been targeted.”

The sites were near the airport and around the Kisweh area south of Damascus, the observatory said.

A Syrian military source on Friday said that a “ministry of transport warehouse at Damascus International Airport” was targeted in the air raid. Another official told SANA that traffic at the airport had not been disrupted.

On Saturday, Syria said it filed complaints with the UN Security Council and with UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres over Israel’s alleged Friday night airstrikes.

Damascus said Israel was able “get away with attacks against Syria” only because it is backed by the US, according to the Syrian foreign ministry.